University of Bath

Dialogic stance in higher education seminars

In this seminar, Dr Marion Heron will present findings from her study examining tutors' dialogic stances in seminar interaction.

5 Dec 20182.15pm
5 Dec 20183.30pm
Student lecture in modern university classroom, back view
The study underpinning this talk examined how university tutors valued dialogic interaction in their seminars

This presentation describes a study which explored tutors’ dialogic stance in seminar interaction. Seminars are a ubiquitous part of UK higher education, and despite the body of research which has explored interaction in seminar events, there is little study of the “other forces” (Boyd and Markarian, 2011, p. 518) which shape the dialogic interaction in the seminar.

This study examined how university tutors valued dialogic interaction in their seminars. Specifically, the research questions were:

  • What values towards dialogic interaction do tutors reveal in reflections on practice?
  • What tensions do tutors experience in supporting dialogic interaction?

Data was gathered from audio recordings of six seminars from different disciplines and stimulated recall interviews with the tutors in which they were played sections of their seminar with the accompanying transcript and asked to reflect on the interaction. The data from the stimulated recall interviews was analysed with reference to Lefstein’s (2010) framework of dialogue as interactional structure, as cognitive activity, and as relations.

As would be expected, the reflective accounts revealed different orientations towards dialogue. However, accounts also revealed how tutors managed dialogic tensions between values, contextual constraints and disciplinary aims. This presentation will discuss these tensions and suggest possible reasons and implications.

The presentation will also address the affordances of data-led tutor reflection on classroom practice as an effective way to raise awareness of talk in seminars and ultimately engage higher education teachers in talking about talk.


Boyd, M. P. and Markarian, W. C. (2011). Dialogic teaching: Talk in service of a dialogic stance. Language and Education, 25(6), 515-534.

Lefstein, A. (2010). More helpful as problem than solution: Some implications of situating dialogue in classrooms. In K. Littleton and C. Howe (Eds.) Educational dialogues: Understanding and promoting productive interaction (pp. 170–191). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.